The Houston Rockets have joined the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets as the most serious potential trade partners with the Orlando Magic on a Dwight Howard deal, according to sources close to the process.
Sources told ESPN.com that the Rockets are discussing a multitude of trade scenarios with the Magic, offering to serve both as the team that would acquire Howard in a direct trade between the clubs and also as a third team that would participate in a trade that lands Howard with the Lakers and brings All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Houston.
The Rockets, in the latter scenario, would push to acquire Bynum from the Lakers while furnishing the Magic with a package of future draft picks and cap-friendly contracts to set Orlando up for a full-fledged roster reload. Sources confirmed a HoopsWorld.com report that the three-team trade construction that sends Bynum to the Rockets instead of the Magic -- with Orlando said to be concerned about its ability to re-sign Bynum for the long term -- gained traction Tuesday.
The key elements of the three-team proposal, sources said, call for the Lakers to acquire Howard and the Rockets -- realizing their longrunning quest to acquire a top-20 player -- to take back the mercurial Bynum as he enters the final year of his contract.
It's believed that Houston would have to absorb the contract of Magic swingman Jason Richardson and perhaps another unpalatable contract or two to complete a trade directly with the Magic for Howard or to get Bynum. Central to the Rockets' offer is a 2013 first-round draft pick that they'll soon acquire from the Toronto Raptors as part of a verbally-agreed trade last week that will send guard Kyle Lowry to Toronto. Houston also has coveted veterans Luis Scola and Kevin Martin to sweeten any trade proposal.
It's been an open secret for months, meanwhile, that the Rockets were willing to trade for a player of Howard's or Bynum's caliber with no assurance that either one will sign an extension as opposed to becoming a free agent in 2013.
Houston's posture, sources said, remains one of confidence that any top-20 player it can acquire will be convinced to stay once he becomes part of the organization.
Sources say that new Magic general manager Rob Hennigan might feel more comfortable taking back a package of youngsters, recent draftees and future first-round draft picks -- while shedding some long-term salary as well -- than taking on Bynum as Howard's replacement and facing a similar challenge on convincing him to commit to the franchise long-term like the Magic have dealt with for months with Howard.